…my pal, Tony McManus, ponders Amazon’s ‘killing the golden goose’ policy on Author reviews…

…the following superb piece from my Author friend, Tony McManus, mirrors what so many of us in the self-publishing community feel right now:


I have mixed emotions regarding Amazon. On the one hand, and I guess like most indie authors, I am grateful for the opportunity Amazon has given me to become a self-published independent author of thrillers. On the other hand, they do things that puzzle, baffle and annoy me.

Writing a book, a novel, fashioning a work of fiction, and doing it well, is not easy. Even for ‘natural’ writers, highly gifted and driven writers pursuing destiny, it’s hard work. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable. A writer on a roll, writing well, enjoys a ‘high’ like nothing else on earth. Like a ride to the moon, it can be the most satisfying thing he’s ever done. He gets to feel good about things.

But then, after completion, he has to sell his book. This is the hardest part.

In order to sell their books, indie writers need to build ‘platforms’ in the form of websites, blogs, and newsletters; all time-consuming chores. It helps to be something of a huckster, a showman. Being shy and reclusive is a drawback. But more than anything else they need reviews. Readers’ reviews are essential, the lifeblood of the enterprise. Good reviews drive sales. Without reviews, a book lies ignored, beached in the shallows. The problem is, reviews are not easy to come by. Only a small percentage of readers are prepared to write them. So, writers are faced with the task of cajoling readers into making the effort. At the end of my latest novel, in the hope of a response, I left a little note:

‘Note to the reader

I hope you enjoyed A Bangkok Interlude. If it’s no trouble, a short, honest review would be greatly appreciated. ‘ 

Getting reviews can be really tough; it’s a hard road to tread. And now, thanks to Big Brother Amazon, it just got a lot harder.

An Australian lady recently purchased and downloaded a copy of my novel, A Bangkok Interlude. She thought it was, ‘Awesome’ and said so on Facebook. She then wrote a review reflecting her enthusiastic opinion. Amazon rejected her review and directed her to their ‘Community Guidelines’. She went there and found that in order to publish a review she had to have spent AU$50 minimum; I imagine that is per year. I have discovered that this rule applies in every ‘Amazon Community’; in Britain, (Amazon.co.uk) for example, one must spend 50 pounds sterling in order to place reviews. The same holds for all the ‘Amazon Communities’.

It wasn’t always this way. Once it was easy and straightforward. You bought a book on Kindle and, if you had a mind to, you wrote a review. It made sense. Not anymore.

I’ve concluded that this financial threshold is the latest salvo in Amazon’s War on Fake Reviews.

Amazon has been waging this war since around 2012. And in so doing they’ve deleted vast numbers of reviews, many of them genuine and not in the least fraudulent. It appears that many innocent writers and reviewers are being cut down, ‘friendly fire’ casualties of Amazon’s unfeeling robots.

Authors are forbidden from holding the slightest relationship with a reviewer. So if a writer develops a group of fans, those fans could be banned from writing reviews, as a fan club could be deemed a relationship by Amazon’s bots. Punishments can include banishment. For life. And there is no appeal. I’m told the entire Kindle store is run by robots and AI. Things are getting more than a little scary. And it appears that the war is largely a failure as the real scammers are getting through.

This latest move, placing a minimum of purchases, will, no doubt, have its effect. But reviewers who get their reviews rejected, like the Australian reader, will be put off from writing reviews; once bitten, twice shy.

At school, I was taught that it was a far, far better thing that a guilty man escapes justice than an innocent man suffers punishment. I feel that Amazon should take note. Far better that a few fraudulent reviews get through than so many genuine and honest reviews get deleted.

Honest reviews benefit Amazon as well as the authors. What a pity they can’t seem to see that.

…thanks, Tony… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!



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…a first-ever Guest Post from my pal, Authoress, Barbara Spencer…

…my dear friend and splendid Authoress, m’Lady, Barbara Spencer, has dipped her foot in the murky waters of my web with her first-ever Guest Post… and she does a terrific job of it… enjoy… here she is, sitting front left in this Interpol snap of a gathering of suspicious-looking writerly characters in London…

I am not quite sure what a guest post entails, having never been asked to do one before. All I know is that Seumas Gallacher, the author of the Jack Calder thrillers, who is also a poet, a bon viveur, and generous to a fault, issued the invitation.

Strangely, it was his novel, Killer City, that began our friendship. For me, it was special because it was the first book I actually downloaded onto Kindle and enjoyed reading. When he flew into London, several authors and I met up with him under the shadow of John Betjeman, the poet Laureate and steam train buff. It was a great day out.

He said to talk about my new novel, The Year the Swans Came, understanding that for me, a children’s novelist for a dozen years with a similar number of books under my belt, it is perhaps the most important novel I have written. Not only is the style very different, I have switched age groups and genres and now write fantasy for adults/top teens, or to be more precise magical realism. It is also the forerunner of a trilogy – something else I’ve never done before.

It is also a mystery, hence my problem. How do I chat about the plot without giving too much away? This review from Catherine Kullmann says it far better than I ever could:

‘As Maidy Bader anxiously awaits her sixteenth birthday, the day on which ‘overnight, girls become adults, eligible to be courted, and to marry’ her thoughts return to the past and most importantly to her elder brother Pieter’s sixteenth birthday, the last he spent with his family. No one speaks of him or why he vanished. Life goes on as it always did in the unnamed country. The unnamed invaders have left and those deportees who could, have returned. Among them are the Bader’s neighbours, the Endelbaums. Their beautiful daughter Ruth, who is Maidy’s best friend, has had to give up her hopes of marrying Pieter. Slightly older than Maidy, Ruth is the belle of the college the girls attend while Maidy stays more in the background.
On Maidy’s birthday, everything changes. Maidy begins to emerge from her chrysalis. Pieter returns as suddenly as he departed, but gives no explanation for his long absence. Ruth immediately claims him, but she is also intrigued by the four strangers, handsome young men, who suddenly appear at the college. She takes their attention and interest as her due but Maidy is surprised to find herself sought out both by gentle Jaan and the strangers’ leader, the charismatic and mysterious Zande. And Pieter is desperate to marry Ruth and complete his apprenticeship with his father, a maker of mirrors.
But all is not as it seems. This is not a college romance. Unimaginable secrets swirl beneath the surface of daily life and all too soon the unwitting Maidy and Ruth are drawn into the vortex of an ancient tragedy that threatens them all anew.
I was blown away by this book, enthralled by the beautiful writing, the slow build-up of the mesmerizing story and the wonderful characters. Magical realism of the highest order’.

Catherine is quite correct, both the country and the invaders remain unnamed. The country is Holland and the city Amsterdam. That is where the idea originated. I took my granddaughter to Amsterdam in 2010, to celebrate the publication of another book.

This is the blurb:

‘Growing up amongst the ruins of war, four siblings use the bridges and cobblestone walkways of the old city as a backdrop for their games. Pieter Bader, the eldest, wants to follow in the footsteps of his family, designers of mirrors for royalty since the 17th century, while Maidy, the youngest, dreams of becoming a writer. Around the smallest bridge in the city, she weaves stories of swashbuckling pirates and princesses, who wear sandals made from the silken thread of a spider web. Her best friend Ruth lives next door. She dreams of marrying Pieter, only for him to vanish from their lives late one night.
Is his disappearance linked to the arrival of the swans, feared as cursed and birds of ill-fortune? What will happen when they return six years later, on the morning of Maidy’s sixteenth birthday?
And who exactly is the charismatic and mysterious Zande?
Follow Ruth and Maidy’s cursed tale of love as they discover what happened to Pieter, and how the appearance of Zande will affect both their lives, unleashing events as tragic and fantastical as one of Maidy’s stories.’


The Year the Swans Came is now on Net Galley and free in the hope of gathering reviews:


…many thanks  to m’Lady Barbara, who can be contacted as noted below… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

Twitter: @BarbaraSpencerO
Facebook: facebook.com/BarbaraSpencerAuthor


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Readers … resolve to read more in 2019!

…my dear pal, m’Lady, Susan Toy has this great news about the new group putting readers and writers together… have a read and then join up, join us, and join in! ! enjoy 🙂

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

HUGETHANKS to Allan Hudson for hosting me once again on his blog, South Branch Scribbler!
Following is much of that original post. Please visit Allan’s link to read in its entirety.

I am a reader and I read a lot of books! No matter how many I read however I never seem to catch up with my ginormous to-be-read stack/list of books. Even though I try to follow Dr. Seuss’s advice:

I never manage to come even close to catching up.

But then that’s part of the fun in reading, isn’t it? The search for new books to read, test-driving new authors’ writing, the joy in “discovering” a new-to-you book or even a genre that you’ve never read before. I’ve spent my entire life reading and working with books and authors and am an author now myself, yet I never tire of reading, thinking about, discussing, recommending and…

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…decimal currency?… not a patch on the old Bank of England ten-bob note…

…the post-groat currency in the UK included farthings, halfpennies, pence, threepenny bits, tanners (sixpence pieces), shillings, florins, half-crowns, ten-shilling notes, and one- , five-, and ten-pound notes…

…this complicated range of hard cash and notes sufficed for the British population for centuries… complementing the standard coinage were crowns, half-sovereigns and sovereigns, plus guineas… for foreign visitors, the confusion was rife, while the locals smirked at the consternation it caused non-Brits… the financial powers-that-be decided to switch to a totally decimal currency, beginning on February 14th, 1971… sensibly, it was announced that a ‘cash-in’ exchange period would be  extended for some time after that particular Valentine’s Day… at the end of that period, all old currency would have to be surrendered at any bank offices within the British Isles, for further surrender to the Bank of England… so far so good, right?… however, human beings generally have an inherent resistance to change, and more so, older human beings… one such person of venerable status lived in a village called Salen, on the beautiful isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides, where I was serving my time as a Trainee Financial Master of the Universe at the noble Clydesdale & North of Scotland Bank in Tobermory… at the time of this transition from the old currency to decimal, I frequently served on the mobile office the bank used to traverse the island, looking after our customers’ financial interests, principally collecting cash payments from local merchants and shop-owners, as well as cheque encashments – these were the days pre-ATMs… but back to our senior lady customer… she was totally baffled by the new-fangled coinage, and resisted using the new multi-sided ten-shilling (fifty pence) coin, preferring to handle the former red-coloured ten-bob notes… the instruction from the Head Office in Glasgow was to retire all the old notes as they appeared… however, for months we continued to let the old lady have the ten-shilling notes, of which we kept a stack on the van just for her needs… we let all the  shopkeepers in Salen know that it was okay to accept these ‘floaters’ from her and to pay them into us on the van when we came round for their weekly cash takings pay-ins… we must have been the last bank in the country to eventually surrender the old notes after our customer passed away… decimal currency?… not a patch on the old ten-bob note… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!



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…I’ve become a ghost… and I’m LUVVIN it!

…2018 was a year in which as a writer, I successfully disappeared… physically, there’s still a lot of me, bulk-wise, than p’raps there should be, but as I harbour a great passion for non-exercise, my solid frame is unlikely to diminish much in the near future… oh, yes, of course, my presence is still highly active on the SOSYAL NETWURKS, and that in itself IS writing, but the majority of my scribbling during the preceding twelve months has been that of a ghostwriter for autobiographies… no less than four separate individuals entrusted me with producing their life stories… and what a series of journeys that has entailed… like most things in my career, it happened almost by accident, when one gentleman who knows that I ‘write a bit’ thought it would be a good idea to ask me to get his story written… we agreed a price, and then I set about it in my usual manner – as a business proposition… a schedule of face-to-face meetings, an outline skeleton of the phases for the narrative, then listening, listening, listening

…it’s amazing how much one can ‘hear’ that’s not actually spoken… the halt in a man’s telling of emotional highs and lows in his existence… the glint in his eyes when you know incidents have left a lasting glorious memory with him… and the dark shadow across his mien at the recollection of disturbing times… slowly, the memoirs build… the shape of a man’s trip from childhood into manhood and maturity… the philosophies that attach themselves on the way through… and for some, the urgent desire to ‘leave sum’thing behind’ for family and descendants… a record of what has gone before…

…none of these projects were driven by ego… indeed, often I had to strive to insist that the positives get included in the personal history… and when they were done, the sense of immense humility I felt after each assignment was palpable… that special humility that comes from knowing that a person has spent weeks and months telling me, at first a complete stranger, some of the most intimate details of their life experiences… I know that I am much the better for each of their sharings… see yeez later … LUV YEEZ!




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…Authors… stuff I learned from John Steinbeck, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, John O’Hara, Umberto Eco and others…

…as a young child growing up in 1950s Docklands Govan in Glasgow, my heroes were mainly cartoon characters from the black-and-white television programmes on offer from basically only two channels  – Auntie BBC and the Scottish Television arm of the Independent Television NetworkTop Cat, Yogi Bear, and Freddie Flintstone were foremost among these… moving into my teens and my own professional football playing days, the idols were Slim Jim Baxter of Glasgow Rangers, Dave Mackay of Hearts and latterly Tottenham Hotspur, and emb’dy who played for Manchester United… progressively, into my twenties and thirties, my inherent love of books led me toward literature, and some of the greatest novelists who ever manoeuvered a quill, pen or typewriter… of course, at school, exposure included the icons of the craft, the classic writers such as Dickens, Stevenson, Lamb, Burns and dozens more… little wonder, then, when the scribbling bug eventually snuck up, ambushed and kidnapped me, that I should have ample grounding in writing-style examples… not plagiarism, which I abhor whenever I see it, but the sense of emulation of the techniques the Literary Gods employed… by no means do I claim any parity in the quality they each produced, but at least my desire is metaphorically to track their footsteps in the print trails… fr’example, Steinbeck wrote such a host of work encompassing the early California hinterland experience that his books seem to interlap, becoming a ‘phalanx’ of his writing… Zafon, in his magnificent ‘Shadow of the Wind’, has his closing paragraph almost paraphrasing the opening sentences  in the story, ‘bookending’ his novel, so to speak, thereby producing a satisfactory narrative parenthesisO’Hara is the master of highs and lows of sentiment in continually mixing perceived triumph with defeat, emphasising  that both of these are really imposters, paralleling the timeless poem, ‘If’ by Kipling... Umberto Eco inspires amazing caricatures in his work, as if each player is handcrafted by the comic art genius of the model-maker, Guillermo Forchino and I LUVVED them all, and still do… fellow authors, what’s your take on who has impacted the approach to your writing?  see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!



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…where did ‘Jack Calder’ come from?…

…as with many of my author friends, I’m frequently asked if the characters in my Jack Calder crime thrillers are based on real-life people… the true answer for most of them lies sum’where ‘twixt ‘yes’ and ‘no’… however, for the main man, Jack, the ex-SAS officer, there does exist a gentleman… a true gentleman at that, and a man I’m pleased to call a friend, who fits most of his characteristics… he would not thank me for naming him, but he lives in my books almost precisely as I’ve seen him behave in civvy street many times… without pinpointing the location in which the following event happened, let me describe one incident which enthralled me at the time… ‘Jack’ as I will continue to use his pseudonym, was owed some money by a guy who belonged to the local Hell’s Angels chapter, and was slow to repay the debt, despite several polite, and then not-so-polite requests for its return… one evening, on a late Saturday night in Asia, the English Premier League football was showing on live television… some friends and I were watching the match in a local bar, in which there were also a bunch of the Hell’s Angels, including the debtor… the place was crowded… the bar door swung open, like a passage in a movie… framed in the doorway, the six foot, two inches of ‘Jack’ stood, dressed in his customary, black, muscle-bound T-shirt… he took his time to look  around… the place hushed quiet… only the sound of the television commentary was unusually clearly audible… he noted the bikers’ group and approached slowly, staring at the recalcitrant debtor… the group parted until ‘Jack’ came face to face with the man… wordlessly, he stretched out an arm and opened the guy’s jacket and removed his wallet from its inside pocket… he glanced from the man, to the group, to the wallet, and took whatever money was inside, then threw the wallet onto the bar… not a word was uttered during all of this… nobody moved a muscle, least of all the debtor… there were at least six of the Hell’s Angels present… not one of them budged even as much as an eyebrow… ‘Jack’ backed off one step, and turned his back on all of them before taking his time to walk to the door and left, without looking back… it was the darnedest thing I have ever seen that, dear readers, that is my man, Jack!… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!













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